January 14th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

Letters to the President: #725 'A unified State of the Union'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Following his big speech in Arizona, President Obama is preparing for his upcoming State of the Union address. For the record, he has not asked for my help, but since he has all these letters, I can’t help but think he will consult them in my absence. Ha!

Dear Mr. President,

I have been following this discussion among your congressional pals about a new seating arrangement for your State of the Union address - the idea that members of the two major parties should mix and mingle instead of camping on either side of the aisle like the warring armies that they are.

This is an excellent idea.

The long growing trend with these speeches has been toward a kind of Bad Congressional Dinner Theater; a Melodrama on the Potomac complete with heroes, villains, and a hissing and hooting peanut gallery. Members of the party that holds the White House beam and cheer too often. Those from the opposition sulk and sit on their hands. It’s kind of funny in that both sides seem to think they can shape the public’s views of policy this way. I mean, we’re not all that bright out here, but give us a little more credit than that…

Frankly, I wish the State of the Union could be a little more like some awards shows and everyone would be asked to hold their applause until the end. This point-by-point endorsement by clapping seems silly – a kind of grandstanding by the audience.

This is supposed to be a moment in which you explain where we stand, where you want to take us, and give us some hint of how you want to get there. If people want to clap or boo every two minutes they should go to a ball game.

It is interesting to me that presidents used to send over only a printed copy of this speech; they did not deliver it in person at all. That’s not a bad idea either; and I’m not saying that just for you…but for all presidents.

Still, as long as we make a spectacle out of it, it seems like a good notion for us to at least try to minimize the partisan showboating, and one good way might be to mix up the crowd. Draw seats by lots so that bitter enemies, and fond friends have equal chances of being next to each other, or on the left or right, or in the front or back. At least it would give the semblance of a united government, of people working together; and who knows? If you sit all these people down next to each other and throw out some problems, maybe one or two of them will talk it over possible solutions.

And that would be something worth clapping for.

Call if you can. I’m around.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Lynnda

    I feel bad for what happened in Arizona, but unfortunately this is not going away anytime soon.With all of the budget cuts for the dually diagnosed people & those with both substance and mental illness the situation is greater then we can imagine.There have been many deaths, suicides, over doses in our city yet no one seems to care.I have been struggling with my son trying to get him into a program treatment place; but one does not exist!I some how got him into the system where instead he received punishment rather then help, and he is NOT a criminal. This is a huge problem.My heart goes out to his family as well, I am sure they noticed a huge difference in their son but had NO where to turn.Their should be a candle light vigil for the mental people who are not getting any help at all.If you look into everyone who has shot someone for no reason had a mental issue or were on medications. I feel the pharmaceutical company have a lot to blame as well.
    When one has crisis there should be somewhere to call for REAL help. So sad, the situation is going to get worse. Just yesterday in our local paper the police was called because someone thought a young man had a gun, turned out people knew the man and knew he has mental problems and has been hearing voices. I believe these people are NOT cold blooded murders but mental people who if they had help they wouldn't do what they have been doing. SAD.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm |